Big data, big decisions

Alumni Close-Up: Deval Motka, MBA ’11

By Matthew Biddle

Deval Motka.

Businesses generate mountains of data every second, and Deval Motka, MBA ’11, knows how to use that information to make smart decisions. 

Before earning her MBA, Motka spent several years in technology consulting in both her native India and Germany. She says her tech background — combined with the business and soft skills she developed through her MBA — allows her to work effectively and strategically with leaders across the organization to answer their questions.

“Just because you can solve something with technology doesn’t mean you should dive right in,” Motka stresses. “It’s important to have a roadmap of where the company is headed and consider your strategy with the data. Are you playing defense and trying to tackle an operational efficiency problem? Or are you working offensively to increase your market share? Those are different strategies, and by prioritizing them correctly, I’m able to take a better seat at the table.”

Since earning her MBA, Motka has moved into senior-level data roles, mindfully shifting from one industry to next. She oversaw data management and reporting teams at Citibank, worked with several units at Comcast to adopt analytics practices, and led teams in analytics, cloud services and automation at a health insurance firm in Pittsburgh. 

For nearly three years, Motka disrupted the fintech industry as vice president of Rocket Data at Rocket Companies. And, today, she is the vice president and chief data officer for Genesco, a footwear-focused retailer with more than 1,400 stores under brand names like Journeys, Journeys Kidz and Johnston & Murphy.

“I was working with data when data wasn’t ‘big,’” says Motka, who has twice been named a “Global Data Power Woman” by Chief Data Officer Magazine. “But now, the amount of data being generated because of all of this digital transformation creates an amazing opportunity for organizations. An interesting piece of the puzzle, for me, is defining those key performance indicators for data within the business and using that data to solve problems.”

Deval Motka with her family after the 2022 Detroit Free Press Marathon.

Motka with her family after the 2022 Detroit Free Press Marathon.

At Genesco, Motka and her team are working to understand their customers’ digital behavior, so the company can stand out from the competition.

“Data isn’t going to change everything we do; it’s going to provide that incremental shift so we can focus our efforts,” Motka says. “A big opportunity for us is tapping into the potential of nurturing our customers and understanding where they are in their journey, so we can always have a product for them when they need it.”

Outside the office, Motka is an avid runner who has completed several marathons, including the 2022 Detroit Free Press Marathon, through which she raised $1,200 for sanitary education for girls in Gujarat, India. In addition, she’s also working to launch a nonprofit initiative called Minds Lifting Minds to provide career coaching and tech skills for women in India.

“I’m immensely proud of my UB days,” Motka says, reflecting on her career thus far. “It’s a welcoming place that values diversity, which made it an easy transition for me. I’m thankful for everything I learned and have been able to apply in my personal and professional life.”